John Svaren, PhD

Position title: Professor, Comparative Biosciences

John Svaren, PhD

PhD, Vanderbilt University
Interim Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Biological Sciences
Director, IDD Models Core

Contact Information

Waisman Center
Room 659
1500 Highland Avenue
Madison, WI 53705
Lab Website: Svaren Lab Home Page
School of Veterinary Medicine

Research Statement

Our laboratory is devoted to research on transcriptional and epigenomic regulation of myelination and pathogenesis/treatment of peripheral neuropathies. The myelin sheath that insulates peripheral nerve fibers is critical for efficient conduction of nerve signals through motor and sensory nerves. Myelin is produced by Schwann cells in a developmental process that is triggered by their association with developing axons.

I have a long standing interest in the interplay of chromatin structure and gene regulation, and we were the first to develop chromatin immunoprecipitation analysis to identify regulatory elements in myelin-associated genes in vivo. These techniques have been combined with epigenomics tools (ChIP-Seq) to characterize genetic/epigenetic mechanisms of myelin formation and how these mechanisms are altered in disorders affecting myelination. We have investigated the role of epigenomic changes in the dynamic reprogramming of Schwann cells after nerve injury, as Schwann cells are a major determinant in the ultimate regeneration and remyelination of axons after nerve injury. Our studies have identified the polycomb pathway as an important regulator of many nerve injury genes, and these efforts were also the first to identify injury-regulated enhancers in peripheral nerve.

Genetic  conditions affecting myelin formation and maintenance by Schwann cells are some of the most common forms of inherited disease in the nervous system, including Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT). Our studies also include translational projects as we have been mapped regulatory elements in the human PMP22 gene, which is duplicated in one of the most common forms of the heritable peripheral neuropathy known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. Our studies have identified novel therapeutic strategies to treat Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, and we have implemented discovery approaches for novel biomarker assessments that can be used in clinical trials for CMT1A and other major forms of CMT. As part of these efforts, I am currently a board member of the Charcot-Marie-Tooth Association, and serve as chair of its scientific advisory board.

Selected Publications